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Florida International U Aiming To Get People To Choose Buses over Cars

A researcher at the Florida International University in Miami is tackling the age-old problem of how to get people to stop using their cars and start using public transportation, particularly in locations that are "car-obsessed." As described in an interview recently published in the university's magazine, the solution consists of creating an app that helps people park their car in optimal spots to grab a bus.

The work, being led by Naphtali Rishe, a professor in the School of Computing and Information Sciences and the director of the university's High Performance Database Research Center, will use TerraFly, a set of Web tools for visualizing and querying geospatial data. Users can virtually "fly" over maps made up from aerial and satellite imagery overlaid with locational data.

That data will be integrated with technology from other sources to perform crowdsourcing of transportation-related data via mobile monitoring. "Their phone tells us where they are," said Rishe. "With that information, we do statistical analysis to determine the probability of getting, say, a parking spot."

The solution also includes work by IBM, which has technology specific to public transformation, and the photographic efforts of a group of students who are photographing the university's campus using air balloons remotely controlled with iPads and sending back "thousands of images at ultra high-resolution" — 10 times sharper than anything already available.

The same research project will help people navigate roads to avoid congestion and to find the best place to park, whether it's at their final destination or to be able to pick up a bus that's already on its way.

"In the United States we have a car-driving population that's very hard to convince to take a bus. This is unsustainable in the long term in big cities because there is not enough bandwidth on the highways," said Rishe. "We're going to entice them into taking public transit by helping them park. We're going to time their parking to real-time departure of the bus."

He added that once the pilot program for the university is implemented, it will be tested for scalability and potentially deployed elsewhere. "If that can work here and improve the experience for the local population and increase use of transit, then there is the potential of saving billions and billions of dollars across the country."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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